Erikson is important both for the very considerable influence he has had in disseminating psychoanalytic ideas and also because his work embodies key developments in psycho-analytic thought since Freud. He has roots in both the old world of psychoanalysis and the new. As a young man, he was a frequent visitor to Sigmund Freud's house. He was analysed by Freud's daughter Anna and made the acquaintance of several of the original members of the psychoanalytic movement. But in the 1930s he joined the many analysts who emigrated from an increasingly tense Europe to seek a new future in the USA. He not only experienced life in a different culture and learned to practice as an analyst there, but he also worked as an academic and researcher, with both anthropologists and psychologists as close colleagues.
One key thrust of Erikson's work is to explore the complex relationship between social context and individual development, particularly as this is mediated through styles of child-rearing. Like many other analysts since Freud, Erikson also places greater emphasis on the ego - that part of personality concerned with directing action, coping with the external world and integrating competing urges within the self. His particular focus is on the healthy ego - how this develops and how it is maintained. [via]